It can survive a splash of Claret, a flick of cigar ash, the nip of a bulldog, and even a spin in the washing machine - Britain’s first plastic currency goes into circulation from Tuesday in the hope that it is cleaner, safer and stronger than the current cotton-paper generation of banknotes.
Of the four denominations - 5, 10, 20 and 50 pounds - the first to be introduced in polymer form is the fiver, featuring an iconic image of Winston Churchill on one side and that of Queen Elizabeth on the other.
The 10 and 20-pound notes will be issued in 2017 and 2020 - the first featuring novelist Jane Austen and the second, painter JMW Turner. There are currently no plans to replace the 50-pound note with a polymer version, the Bank of England said.
Watch | Video showing the features of the new plastic currency note featuring Winston Churchill
The new fiver features Churchill’s portrait, captured in Ottawa by Yousuf Karsh. The war-time hero’s famous glower in the portrait was prompted by the photographer’s decision to take Churchill’s cigar away from him, the bank said.
Behind the portrait is an illustration of the Houses of Parliament.The hands on the Big Ben are set to the time on May 13, 1940 when Churchill made his inaugural speech to the House of Commons as Prime Minister.
His declaration at the time – “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat” – is quoted beneath the portrait.
Bank of England governor Mark Carney said: “Polymer marks a major innovation. It is cleaner, safer, and stronger. It is resistant to dirt and moisture, so the note won’t wear out as quickly as the current fivers but will stay in good condition for longer.
“It is stronger than paper and can better withstand being repeatedly folded into wallets or scrunched up inside pockets. Polymer notes are also better for the environment...Importantly, using polymer means we can incorporate better security features. It allows for see-through panels, coloured foils, detailed metallic images, and a new advance: tactile features.”